Anchor partners: Context, issues and ideas

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The purpose of this page is for anchor partner institutions to enrich our planning by sketching their unique context but also to raise issues, ideas and concerns from the lens of organisational experience. In this way the OERu network becomes more than the sum of its parts.
  1. As an institutional contribution, the edits on this page may not necessarily be attributable to a single individual or necessarily convey official policy of the anchor partner. The contributions are offered in good faith to progress the planning of the OERu. In this instance signatures are not required. Just add a comment in the edit summary, for example: Comment submitted by team members of the University of Name goes here'
  2. As an open wiki, we welcome the community to respond to any of the bullet points submitted by anchor partners. Please indent and sign your comments on institutional points submitted.
  3. Do not add new bullets under the relevant institution sub-headings, unless you are posting an institutional-based comment. Add your bullet to the #General comments section below.
  4. The most important and/or unresolved issues will be tabled and discussed during the opening context panel to be incorporated into the agenda for founding anchor partners.

Empire State College (SUNY)

  • At Empire State College, each student develops an individual degree program. We have an extensive advising and review process (each student is assigned a mentor) that supports this core aspect of our college. Our individual approach fosters an unusual approach to curriculum.
  • Although the individual approach remains core, our growth in online learning (which now provides almost half of our credits) has led to extensive online curriculum (over 500 courses.) We are moving our online curriculum from Angel/Blackboard to Moodle in the coming year. We see this change as a timely opportunity to embrace the OER movement.
  • Empire State College has a solid commitment to PLA. Our model is not course-based: rather, students identify the learning, providing a title that fits that learning. Then, an evaluator, through an interview process, makes a recommendation for college-level credit based on the demonstrated learning. We know that our model is not scalable beyond our matriculated students and our challenge, which we embrace, is to develop ways to provide PLA to learners who are not matriculated with us.There are a number of ongoing OER projects at Empire State (highlighted on our Wikieducator page.) We are considering proposing a MOOC for our OERu credentialed course.
  • Empire State College awards Associate, Bachelor and Masters degrees. Although we award Associate degrees, most of our Associate degree recipients get the Associate degree as part of their path to a Bachelor degree. We have focused over the past few years on developing articulation degrees with community colleges in New York State, allowing for easy transfer of their credits toward a Bachelor degree from Empire State. In the credentialing discussion as part of OERu, we need to be sensitive to those partnerships that we have carefully developed.
  • We are planning to contract with MoodleRooms for our Moodle conversion. And, we hope to pilot an OER repository for MoodleRooms in the fall.


Some concerns raised by staff at NorthTec are:

  • How OERTen will ensure that local knowledge is represented, respected and acknowledged in particular of indigenous people and cultures. (similar to the first point raised by Unisa)
Agree this will be a design challenge. That said, I think that the open licensing of OER will facilitate better localisation opportunities because partner institutions will have the freedom to adopt for local knowledge and cultures. Also I we should design courses and pedagogical models which minimize cost but maximise opportunities for local branding and customisation. As in the case of New Zealand with three national partners -- the benefits of local collaboration are amplified. --Wayne Mackintosh 03:29, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Moving to OER and Open Educational Practice requires significant and deep pedagogical change which is difficult to achieve at institutional level.
Yes - -we will need to thing carefully about the pedagogical opportunities afforded by the open model. I think Jim Taylor from USQ will provide examples of how this could work in the future at the meeting. --Wayne Mackintosh 03:29, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Will all partners be able to benefit equally if national or other restrictions apply to the qualifications they can offer/ accredit.
No, I don't think all partners will be able to benefit equally with reference to restrictions which are out of the control the decision-making autonomy of individual institutions. That said, I think partner institutions will gain more from the network than if they were not part of the ecosystem, Moreover, the the OERTen network as an international network can help and foster policy improvements at the national level. --Wayne Mackintosh 03:29, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

Otago Polytechnic

  • Otago Polytechnic has been developing a culture of reducing barriers to access to education for many years. This has been represented through various activities such as embracing Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) in the 90’s which has led to the ability to assess and award credit for whole of qualifications including Bachelor’s degrees in a number of disciplines. So the process of quality assurance for this has been a major focus. Not surprisingly a number of the Anchor Partners also have as a feature strong APL experience and history. A number of issues facing OERu around the credentialing processes are philosophically similar.
Speaking personally -- I believe the OERu will be successful because it is building on the research and experience of APL and open distance learning. With these foundations, we are well positioned to respond to many of the issues associated with an OERu delivery model. --Wayne Mackintosh 01:31, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Given our position on reducing barriers to access it is not surprising that this has led to our views on Open IP and the use of Creative Commons licensing. This has provided a strong platform to develop our implementation of OERs at Otago Polytechnic. It has been challenging at times both internally and externally to work with others who have not been able to grasp the benefits of this model.
Otago Polytechnic has established a global leadership position with the Open IP policy. This is an important enabler (which will also serve the OERu, for example the release of Otago Poly's APL policy under a CC-BY license.) In practice I think the linkages between policy and implementation are more tenuous than we care to admit. I agree, OER requires a cultural shift i.e. crossing the chasm form "sharing-to-learn" to "learning-to-share". I'm hoping that focused project planning for our selected OERU projects will help and that by using networked model involving multiple institutions we can facilitate culltural change within our respective institutions in small incremental steps. --Wayne Mackintosh 01:43, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
  • As a Polytechnic it is important that it is understood that in the New Zealand context Polytechnics can and do award Full Degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. These are accredited by the New Zealand Qualifications Assurance body as meeting the expectations that apply to all degree provision. The focus of Polytechnics Education tends to be of a more applied nature and provide for professional pathways in those disciplines.
Within the international context -- that is an important point. We are also fortunate to have Thompson Rivers University as an anchor partner also offer associate degrees and other vocational education credentials with excellent laddering between "associate /diplomas degrees" and university degrees. Also -- I think that the "Diploma of Arts" idea proposed by USQ essentially a credential for first-year degree study provides flexible alternatives for all anchor partners. --Wayne Mackintosh 01:51, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Southern New Hampshire University

  • At SNHU we created an independent Innovation Lab unit. This freed us from many of the perceived or real constraints of traditional school delivery methods, but because we are still a part of SNHU, we will continually challenged to produce solutions that are "not just cheaper +/or FREE, but BETTER!" by our on-campus peers.
  • Both our president and the SNHU Innovation Lab have a sense of extending our work to encompass a social mission beyond our region and beyond the US. We want to factor in a pay-it-forward means of delivering education to those without access or funding.
  • We are early in the cycle of developing alternative forms of delivery. As of now we develop courses in a traditional ID-SME model and the bulk of our course library uses traditional textbooks, Blackboard based (although we will have blueprints of content in an easily accessible format) - what would be ALL the ramifications, costs, benefits etc of opening up this resource (note - we had to pitch to trustees for major investment - which we may now "give away") (note #2 - the board are EXTREMELY supportive and Clayton Christensen is on it!
  • Interested in discussing the Volunteer Learning Initiative but REALLY interested in exploring peer-to-peer (rather than expert-led) options - P2PU and Open Study - two possible follow-up partners, and devising ways to trade credits with P2PU and other peer learning and badge initiatives.
  • We get FREE (not for credit) and we get tuition-accreditation (reduced rates for OERu project) BUT - is there a model where students get some recognition that is perhaps skills / outcomes based that is not as bound by governance and accreditation that we can discuss?
  • Explore OERGlue?

Thompson Rivers University

I've been been compiling criteria for identifying courses that might be suitable for the initial offering. Ideas were mostly gathered from this Wiki and associated documents. Thoughts on this would be welcome.

Form and access

  • Materials must be in digital form and freely available on the Web
  • Resources = Teaching, learning and research resources
  • Full courses (initial focus)
Other future potential (standalone[?]) or incorporated in the courses noted above):
    • Course materials
    • Modules
    • Textbooks
    • Streaming videos
    • Tests
    • Software
    • Games and simultations
    • Any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge (Atkins, Brown & Hammond 2007)
  • No excessive bandwidth requirement
  • Free from 3rd party copyright issues
  • Non-proprietary media formats – i.e. common players
  • Developer contracts without restrictions
  • Convertible to low-tech formats
  • No required purchased textbook (difficult!)


  • Individual or group learning (? Important topic for discussion)
  • Asynchronous
  • Formal or informal contexts
  • Self-assessment features (self-test - quizzes)
  • Avoiding excessive localization unless relevant to course outcomes (...or not...Good discussion topic)

Program elements

  • Qualify for lower level credit initially
  • Acceptable for credit towards Bachelor of General Studies


  • Current and in overall good shape


  • The textbook issue alone appeared to make a major dent in our list (which is still under development) - and this argues strongly for concomitant work in open textbooks and journals.
Increasingly there are a growing number of unencumbered texts and resources coming available, for example the work of the Saylor Foundation, the repository of open education resources developed by BCcampus which are mapped to credentials, full courses like the work of Open Learn at the OUUK. The possibility of compiled readers using open access journals can also be explored. Also during the initial phases -- it would be possible to reference open access materials using a wrap-around approach as long as we keep our core course resources under open licenses. I have also found that given the global reach of the OER Foundation projects and its potential contribution to education for all -- many copyright holders have been prepared to consider re-licensing using open content licenses. That said, it will take time before the majority of our courses are not encumbered by 3rd party copyright. --Wayne Mackintosh 00:33, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
  • The question around self-directed and collaborative models needs a lot of thought. Either way I think the courses will probably need some degree of review to "neutralize" some of the instructions to accommodate an agreed-upon meta-pedagogy.
Agreed. I'm looking forward to seeing Jim Taylor's protype for demonstrating "new pedagogies" and suspect this will inform our planning and help us find solutions. --Wayne Mackintosh 00:35, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

University of South Africa (Unisa)

Despite the gradual accretion of organizations offering similar benefits, such as P2PU, The People's University, The Floating University, and so on, OERu will operate under an inclusive formula in the spirit of openness and sharing and with a strong vision of social justice. More specifically, as an organization we should welcome all initiatives that promote free and open education on a global scale for those millions of people who are not able to attend formal classes or who cannot afford them.

Some concerns of Unisa are:

  • The question of the global and the local. As a global OER consortium of like-minded HE institutions, how will we ensure firstly that local knowledge is respected and acknowledged by the accreditation (summative assessment) process while also aiming for equality and evenness of quality?
Feedback comment: This is an important question. I believe the OERu network will be able to address this through pedagogical design of the summative assessment and we can apply similar methodologies to those used by QA and Qualifications Authorities. First an institution is a trusted provide by virtue of their national accreditation. Second, the OERu network should agree the quality assurance mechanisms and criteria for assessment in a way which recognizes and respects local knowledge. In reality this is not too different say, for example the University of Southern Queensland recongnising course credits from Unisa students or vice-versa. --Wayne Mackintosh 03:21, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Without rehearsing the by now rather tired phrase 'the digital divide', how will we ensure that our shared knowledge resources are accessible for the majority of (and especially) students from developing nations, many of whom will not be able to access OER courses, let alone afford the fees we intend to levy for final assessment? A sliding scale of fee structure comes to mind here but perhaps we should also consider dropping fees for impoverished students.
Feedback comment. This is a very relevant and important question. A unique feature of the OERTen network is that this is a equal partnership among developing and industrialized countries. In a "flat world" that distinction is perhaps not appropriate as we are increasing pockets of "development" irrespective of neo-colonial classifications. For example, I can assure you that the digital divide is live and well in New Zealand. In the OERu model -- institutions will charge their own fees for the assessment and credentialing services they provide. These fees are not dictated by OERTen and in this way a sliding scale of fee structure will operate. Also, in some countries governments may choose to subsidize the assessment and credentially services as part of the government grant. Again countries would be free to do this under the OERTen model. With reference to pedagogy -- anchor partners would have the autonomy and freedom to implement "parallel pedagogies" for example, some institutions may choose delivery options which are print-based rather than purely online. Technology has improved significantly and this is doable. We'll demonstrate examples at the anchor partner meeting. --Wayne Mackintosh 03:32, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
  • If we are serious about education for the public good especially creating access for those currently excluded from post tertiary education in poor and marginalized communities, we would need to consider sensitivity to diversity in language. Course offerings in local languages would be a valuable addition to OERu.
Feedback comment: Absolutely! I was hoping that more partners other than English-medium teaching institutions would join the network. We need to think carefully about multi-lingualism and how this might function in an OERu context. At his time its very much work in progress. However, working together I know will will find answers. --Wayne Mackintosh 03:35, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
  • At mega-universities an unresolved challenge would be creating buy-in from already overwhelmed staff to spend a portion of time on OERu students. The use of students and interns would need careful consideration if we are to maintain quality, there would also be hidden costs incurred that need consideration.
Feedback comment: Again, we are in agreement here. We must recognize the real world and the dynamics and autonomy of academic institutions and the academics and scholars who make up these unique institutions. To be candid, some academics will be supportive of the OER approach, others will oppose openness with a passion and corresponding arguments to justify their position ;-). This where a networked model of accredited institutions will work well -- we don't need every academic to commit and support the model. All we need is an institutions to identify two courses the would be keen to assemble among the internal champions and supporters. If we assume a bachelor of General studies or a Bachelor of trans-disiplinary studies with options to stream (of courses are available) this provides a sufficiently flexible model for institutions to contribute, This is clearly an example of where the outcome is definitely going to be more than the sum of the parts. --Wayne Mackintosh 03:43, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
  • We need to be careful of the use of the word open and free especially since we speak of service fees. How open is open and how free is free?
Feedback comment: Agreed again. Free can mean no-cost (gratis) as well as freedom (liberty). Freedom does not exclude the rights of individuals to earn a living, hence there can be cost associated with gaining an education. Similarly free learning opportunities (at no cost) are technically possible -- the credentialising is a barrier. That said, the OERu network is going to solve this. --Wayne Mackintosh 03:46, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

University of Southern Queensland

Some concerns raised by my colleagues at USQ:

  • Not all members of the OERu are universities, as some are "only" polytechnics, so how can the OERu be called a university?
Feedback comment: This question led to our collaborative innovation partnership being referred to as the OER Tertiary Education Network (OERTen) which signals that we want to encourage inclusive participation of accredited institutions offering awards at the tertiary education level. The implication in the initial question of concerns about the relative status and "quality" of course offerings is something that will have to be managed via an open approach to cross-credit through existing institutional policies and processes, which generally already encompass the accreditation of a wide range of courses done at a variety of institutions elsewhere. Jim Taylor 18 October 2011.
That's a valid question from the University sector. In response, this would differ from country to country, however in the case of New Zealand the Education Act 1989 affords the autonomy for New Zealand polytechnics to award degrees of the same level and stature when compared to University degrees in accordance with the NZQA (as mentioned by Robin above.) The value of the OERTen is that community colleges, polytechnics and universities can use a shared infrastructure for OER learning and that there will be multiple exits points - -certificates, diplomas, degrees etc. The power of the OERTen lies in the laddering and pathways the network can provide from vocational certificates through to full university degrees in accordance with local accredit ion requirements. --Wayne Mackintosh 01:58, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
"The word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly means "community of teachers and scholars."[1]. This discussion reminds me of a posting a few years ago by Teemu Leinonen: Should we redefine what is an University?
  • What about the cost of existing institutional licensing agreements with (i)the vendors of LMS software and (ii) publishers who provide access to e-library resources, including full text e-content? These financial agreements are usually a function of the number of "seats" which are provided only for an agreed number of officially registered mainstream students.
Feedback comment: The suggested solution to these potentially problematic issues is to offer OERu courses (based solely on OER and embracing the pedagogy of discovery) via Moodle on WikiEducator thereby avoiding financial and administrative system interface complexities. Jim Taylor 18 October 2011.
Jim, agreed -- again a valid question from a fiscal management point of view. If OERu were to recruit a million students -- I can see why institutions would be concerned about licensing costs based on student enrolments ;-). Technically an "OERu-learner" is not a "student" of the conferring institution until the point they request assessment or credential services. The license costs would need to be factored into the fee for service at this point. As you indicated, the OER Foundation only uses free and open source software solutions -- so we do not carry software licensing costs. --Wayne Mackintosh 02:03, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

General comments

  • One challenge that OER projects have not adequately resolved is the ability for a resource to diverge from an original, but still:
  • facilitate merging its different branches back into one another
  • having a clear history that allows traceability back to the original(s), any contributing branches, and their authors
The ability to diverge and merge is adds flexibility for contextualization, encourages parallel development/refinement, and reduces the onus of having a single "owner" of a resource. An enabling technology that I think is worth exploring is applying the software development methodology of distributed version control to OER. Distributed, traceable versions have proven considerably more powerful than a centrally maintained linear history. --JimTittsler 08:45, 3 November 2011 (UTC)


  1. Google eBook of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2006-09-22, accessed on 2010-05-28.